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900-plus names on anti-Tesco petition

PUBLISHED: 17:31 17 July 2008 | UPDATED: 07:31 01 August 2010

ALMOST 1,000 signatures have been gathered in a petition against proposals to bring a Tesco store to Halesworth.

The petition, compiled by a retired teacher from Halesworth, has been branded premature by Halesworth Town Council chairman Janet Wright, who believes that people should wait for an official planning application before attacking the idea.

ALMOST 1,000 signatures have been gathered in a petition against proposals to bring a Tesco store to Halesworth.

The petition, compiled by a retired teacher from Halesworth, has been branded premature by Halesworth Town Council chairman Janet Wright, who believes that people should wait for an official planning application before attacking the idea.

And Tesco has also asked for people to wait until consultations begin properly in the autumn before passing judgement on the idea.

Jen Berry, who lived in Chediston for 27 years before moving to Halesworth five years ago, gathered signatures from the streets and shops of the town arguing that the store would threaten local businesses, spoil the town's character, and bring an “unethical” retail chain to the town.

Mrs Berry, 69, said: “Halesworth has got everything it needs and a Tesco would put local stores out of business.

“The petition has been signed by visitors who come here and say that Halesworth has a lovely character, and some people have actually moved here because there isn't a big superstore.”

She continued: “Tesco as a store is very unethical. According to Labour Behind the Label (a campaign that supports garment workers) they don't pay a living wage and so on, and Tesco made a record profit of £2.8 million last year.

“People say they want it because they're hard up and Tesco is affordable, but they're not hard up compared to third world workers. I bet all these people have got televisions and cars.”

However Halesworth Town Council chairman Janet Wright said that she felt the objections were premature, with no official planning application put forward, and added that the council could not refuse planning applications based on ethical issues.

She said: “I don't think we can take ethics into consideration as much as we might like to- we can refuse only on planning grounds. We have to be objective and we can't let personal opinion cloud our judgement. We need to think 'is it going to benefit the town.'

“We live in a democracy and if we don't agree with the ethics we don't go into that shop. Just because we don't agree with it, it doesn't mean everyone else has to. Business is business.”

Meanwhile Tesco's East of England Corporate Affairs Manager Nick Gellatly said that the petition was premature as Tesco “have not started talking with the community.”

He also refuted the claims that the store would ruin the town's character: “We would argue exactly the opposite. A lot of people in Halesworth do most if not all of their shopping outside of the town. Here there is the potential to do most if not all of their weekly grocery shopping inside the town, which would have the effect of anchoring the shopping in the town.”

He also refuted that the chain is unethical, citing the fact that that the chain founded the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and regarding the potential threat to local businesses said: “I don't think we would threaten local businesses. I've spent time in Halesworth and there are some really good shops there which people would continue to shop in, and that have the ability to offer unique and personal services.”

The issue was discussed at the last Halesworth Town Council meeting, where there was a lengthy discussion concerning the proposed supermarket and the possible impact on the town centre businesses.

Councillors agreed to contact Stowmarket to find out the effect on businesses of a large food store opening.

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